New Survey Shows The Pandemic's Toll On Immigrant Households Throughout Mass.

A Chelsea resident carries a box of food supplies during a pop-up food pantry at Washington Park in April. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
A Chelsea resident carries a box of food supplies during a pop-up food pantry at Washington Park in April. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

A new survey led by the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy coalition (MIRA) suggests many immigrant households in the state are struggling with unemployment as well as food and housing insecurity as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Of the 433 responses to the survey, three-quarters of the households say they've experienced some sort of job loss. Fifty-eight percent of the families reported not receiving unemployment insurance after losing a job — nearly half of them because an undocumented family member who lost their job was ineligible for benefits.

Food insecurity is also a major issue among the respondents, with 59% of the households reporting they don't have enough food to eat. Among households with at least one undocumented family member, that jumps to 78%.

Eva Millona, the president and CEO of MIRA, said the organization has known from the beginning of the pandemic that immigrant communities were being hit hard by the economic fallout. The survey, conducted in 16 different languages over the month of July, was an attempt to quantify the impact. Millona said the survey is the first quantitative assessment of the pandemic's toll on immigrants across Massachusetts. MIRA is presenting its findings Friday.

“This survey shows that immigrants in Massachusetts are immensely resilient and resourceful, but many are facing impossible odds,” Millona said in a statement. “Without support from local food pantries, many families would be going hungry. And fear of immigration consequences is making some immigrants who sorely need help too afraid to seek it."

The survey results paint a picture of immigrant households spanning the state, from Pittsfield and Stockbridge, to Newburyport and New Bedford. Forty-four percent of the respondents, the largest portion, identify as Latinx. Asian immigrants were the next largest community represented in the survey at 32.6% of the respondents.

Nearly 60% of the households reported having green card holders in the family while 37% reported having at least one undocumented family member in the household. Millona said the majority of the respondents were living in households with a mix of immigration statuses.


The CARES act denied coronavirus relief payments to undocumented immigrants, as well as to any household where U.S. citizens filed taxes jointly with a non-citizen. Millona hopes this survey reinforces the importance of including benefits for undocumented immigrants in the next federal stimulus package.

"This is a humanitarian crisis of enormous proportion and history will judge us by how we respond," she said.


Headshot of Shannon Dooling

Shannon Dooling Investigative Reporter
Shannon Dooling was an investigative reporter at WBUR, focused on stories about immigration and criminal justice.



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